The reflections felt best when no people were around. When there was no one standing and staring and judging themselves. When no housewife lifted her rolls of flesh and let them droop and bounce and then sighed heavily at the idea of some perfection she could never reach. When no muscled young man stumbled from the bedroom to flush his condom and flex his abs before heading downstairs for cereal and a possible high-five, the young woman wrapped in sheets like a disaster victim, the events of the evening blacked out from her brain.
At the park late at night, the stars breathed easy on the flat mirrored pond, and the tree tops swayed at the edges in time to a song no human would hear. In Mr. Simmons' mirror, the towels stretched and settled like cats, unburdened by Mr. Simmons' nervous ticks of grooming, the hair over his ears just so, the five or six strands carefully combed across his shining pate. The constant dissatisfaction. The false starts and eventual unhappy acceptance. For the reflected towels, the window corner, the small shelf and the glass, brush, and nail scissors it held, the mornings were the worst, and the reflected things sat in the mirror rigid with anxiety, counting seconds, possibly minutes, as Mr. Simmons--as he thought of himself. Always Mr. Simmons, band teacher to sixth and seventh graders, part-time counselor to students of all grades--readied himself against the slings and arrows of the world's cruelest ages. And he did the best he could, sure that any errant thread, any missed hair or unwiped toothpaste dot would be the source of unheard ridicule. Unheard, but not unfelt, the very walls of the school breathing with the whispered insults of children.
And in the locker room mirrors at Westwood Middle School, reflections of lockers and combination locks, a wadded towel and soaked sock all vibrated with the violence of the every day. No solace for them, even after the bodies had left for the day, for the things they witnessed were too horrible to forget. The way Tommy and Bobby and Chet had pinned little Marcus against the gray metal lockers and pressed their fists into his ribs. They way they'd spit into his hair and whispered "nigger" in his ears and told him if he let slip what had happened things would be so much worse. The way a whole class fell upon Michael whose penis had swelled only slightly as he pulled his sweaty underwear over his skinny haunches and down his bony legs. The way they laughed and taunted and called him fag, their rat-tailed towels popping the air and slapping his skin and leaving him covered in marks like tongue licks from an acid cat. And the sly smile that stretched across Coach Wilson's lips as he bent each boy forward to check for scoliosis, the uncertainty and fear in their slender frames. The small intake of breath as his hands stroked their flesh on either side of the spine, the soft hairs caressing his fingertips as they finally settled in the delicate dimples in the small of the young boys' backs. For these things the reflected lockers and locks and towel and sock could do nothing but stay put, frozen, their spirits' teeth clenched and their internal clocks counting down minutes through the night and into the dawn, each sixty seconds brining closer another morning bell. Another first period. Another monstrosity projected through to their mirror world.